Kṛṣṇa or Christ – The Name Is the Same
It is 1974. Near ISKCON’s center in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany, Śrīla Prabhupāda and several of his disciples take a morning walk with Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen, a Benedictine monk from Niederalteich Monastery. Noticing that Śrīla Prabhupāda is carrying meditation beads similar to the rosary, Father Emmanuel explains that he also chants a constant prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful unto us.” The following conversation ensues.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: What is the meaning of the word Christ?
Father Emmanuel: Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning “the anointed one.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Christos is the Greek version of the word Kṛṣṇa.
Father Emmanuel: This is very interesting.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: When an Indian person calls on Kṛṣṇa, he often says, “Kṛṣṭa.” Kṛṣṭa is a Sanskrit word meaning “attraction.” So when we address God as “Christ,” “Kṛṣṭa,” or “Kṛṣṇa,” we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead. When Jesus said, “Our Father, who art in heaven, sanctified be Thy name,” that name of God was “Kṛṣṭa” or “Kṛṣṇa.” Do you agree?
Father Emmanuel: I think Jesus, as the son of God, has revealed to us the actual name of God: Christ. We can call God “Father,” but if we want to address Him by His actual name, we have to say “Christ.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. “Christ” is another way of saying Kṛṣṭa, and “Kṛṣṭa” is another way of pronouncing Kṛṣṇa, the name of God. Jesus said that one should glorify the name of God, but yesterday I heard one theologian say that God has no name – that we can call Him only “Father.” A son may call his father “Father,” but the father also has a specific name. Similarly, “God” is the general name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose specific name is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore whether you call God “Christ,” “Kṛṣṭa,” or “Kṛṣṇa,” ultimately you are addressing the same Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, if we speak of God’s actual name, then we must say, “Christos.” In our religion, we have the Trinity: the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe we can know the name of God only by revelation from the Son of God. Jesus Christ revealed the name of the father, and therefore we take the name Christ as the revealed name of God.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Actually, it doesn’t matter – Kṛṣṇa or Christ – the name is the same. The main point is to follow the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures that recommend chanting the name of God in this age. The easiest way is to chant the mahā-mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are names of God, and Hare is the energy of God. So when we chant the mahā-mantra, we address God together with His energy. This energy is of two kinds, the spiritual and the material. At present we are in the clutches of the material energy. Therefore we pray to Kṛṣṇa that He may kindly deliver us from the service of the material energy and accept us into the service of the spiritual energy. That is our whole philosophy. Hare Kṛṣṇa means, “O energy of God, O God [Kṛṣṇa], please engage me in Your service.” It is our nature to render service. Somehow or other we have come to the service of material things, but when this service is transformed into the service of the spiritual energy, then our life is perfect. To practice bhakti-yoga [loving service to God] means to become free from designations like “Hindu,” “Muslim,” “Christian,” this or that, and simply to serve God. We have created Christian, Hindu, and Muhammadan religions, but when we come to a religion without designations, in which we don’t think we are Hindus or Christians or Muhammadans, then we can speak of pure religion, or bhakti.
Father Emmanuel: Mukti?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, bhakti. When we speak of bhakti, mukti [liberation from material miseries] is included. Without bhakti there is no mukti, but if we act on the platform of bhakti, then mukti is included. We learn this from the Bhagavad-gītā [14.26]:
māṁ ca yo ’vyabhicāreṇa
sa guṇān samatītyaitān
“One who engages in full devotional service, who does not fall down under any circumstance, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.”
Father Emmanuel: Is Brahman Kṛṣṇa?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Kṛṣṇa is Para-brahman. Brahman is realized in three aspects: as impersonal Brahman, as localized Paramātmā, and as personal Brahman. Kṛṣṇa is personal, and He is the Supreme Brahman, for God is ultimately a person. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam [1.2.11], this is confirmed:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
bhagavān iti śabdyate
“One who engages in full devotional service, unfailing in all circumstances, at once transcends the modes of material nature and thus comes to the level of Brahman.” The feature of the Supreme Personality is the ultimate realization of God. He has all six opulences in full: He is the strongest, the richest, the most beautiful, the most famous, the wisest, and the most renounced.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, I agree.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Because God is absolute, His name, His form, and His qualities are also absolute, and they are nondifferent from Him. Therefore to chant God’s holy name means to associate directly with Him. When one associates with God, one acquires godly qualities, and when one is completely purified, one becomes an associate of the Supreme Lord.
Father Emmanuel: But our understanding of the name of God is limited.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, we are limited, but God is unlimited. And because He is unlimited, or absolute, He has unlimited names, each of which is God. We can understand His names as much as our spiritual understanding is developed.
Father Emmanuel: May I ask a question? We Christians also preach love of God, and we try to realize love of God and render service to Him with all our heart and all our soul. Now, what is the difference between your movement and ours? Why do you send your disciples to the Western countries to preach love of God when the gospel of Jesus Christ is propounding the same message?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The problem is that the Christians do not follow the commandments of God. Do you agree?
Father Emmanuel: Yes, to a large extent you’re right.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Then what is the meaning of the Christians’ love for God? If you do not follow the orders of God, then where is your love? Therefore we have come to teach what it means to love God: if you love Him, you cannot be disobedient to His orders. And if you’re disobedient, your love is not true.
All over the world, people love not God but their dogs. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is therefore necessary to teach people how to revive their forgotten love for God. Not only the Christians, but also the Hindus, the Muhammadans, and all others are guilty. They have rubber-stamped themselves “Christian,” “Hindu,” or “Muhammadan,” but they do not obey God. That is the problem.
Visitor: Can you say in what way the Christians are disobedient?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes. The first point is that they violate the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” by maintaining slaughterhouses. Do you agree that this commandment is being violated?
Father Emmanuel: Personally, I agree.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Good. So if the Christians want to love God, they must stop killing animals.
Father Emmanuel: But isn’t the most important point …
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If you miss one point, there is a mistake in your calculation. Regardless of what you add or subtract after that, the mistake is already in the calculation, and everything that follows will also be faulty. We cannot simply accept that part of the scripture we like, and reject what we don’t like, and still expect to get the result. For example, a hen lays eggs with its back part and eats with its beak. A farmer may consider, “The front part of the hen is very expensive because I have to feed it. Better to cut it off.” But if the head is missing there will be no eggs anymore, because the body is dead. Similarly, if we reject the difficult part of the scriptures and obey the part we like, such an interpretation will not help us. We have to accept all the injunctions of the scripture as they are given, not only those that suit us. If you do not follow the first order, “Thou shalt not kill,” then where is the question of love of God?
Visitor: Christians take this commandment to be applicable to human beings, not to animals.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That would mean that Christ was not intelligent enough to use the right word: murder. There is killing, and there is murder. Murder refers to human beings. Do you think Jesus was not intelligent enough to use the right word – murder – instead of the word killing? Killing means any kind of killing, and especially animal killing. If Jesus had meant simply the killing of humans, he would have used the word murder.
Father Emmanuel: But in the Old Testament the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” does refer to murder. And when Jesus said, “Thou shalt not kill,” he extended this commandment to mean that a human being should not only refrain from killing another human being, but should also treat him with love. He never spoke about man’s relationship with other living entities, but only about his relationship with other human beings. When he said, “Thou shalt not kill,” he also meant in the mental and emotional sense – that you should not insult anyone or hurt him, treat him badly, and so on.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We are not concerned with this or that testament but only with the words used in the commandments. If you want to interpret these words, that is something else. We understand the direct meaning. “Thou shalt not kill” means “The Christians should not kill.” You may put forth interpretations in order to continue the present way of action, but we understand very clearly that there is no need for interpretation. Interpretation is necessary if things are not clear. But here the meaning is clear. “Thou shalt not kill” is a clear instruction. Why should we interpret it?
Father Emmanuel: Isn’t the eating of plants also killing?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: The Vaiṣṇava philosophy teaches that we should not even kill plants unnecessarily. In the Bhagavad-gītā [9.26] Kṛṣṇa says:
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
“If someone offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or a little water, I will accept it.” We offer Kṛṣṇa only the kind of food He demands, and then we eat the remnants. If offering vegetarian food to Kṛṣṇa were sinful, then it would be Kṛṣṇa’s sin, not ours. But God is apāpa-viddha – sinful reactions are not applicable to Him. He is like the sun, which is so powerful that it can purify even urine – something impossible for us to do. Kṛṣṇa is also like a king, who may order a murderer to be hanged but who himself is beyond punishment because he is very powerful. Eating food first offered to the Lord is also something like a soldier’s killing during wartime. In a war, when the commander orders a man to attack, the obedient soldier who kills the enemy will get a medal. But if the same soldier kills someone on his own, he will be punished. Similarly, when we eat only prasāda [the remnants of food offered to Kṛṣṇa], we do not commit any sin. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā [3.13]:
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā
ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt
“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food that is first offered for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.”
Father Emmanuel: Kṛṣṇa cannot give permission to eat animals?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes – in the animal kingdom. But the civilized human being, the religious human being, is not meant to kill and eat animals. If you stop killing animals and chant the holy name Christ, everything will be perfect. I have not come to teach you, but only to request you to please chant the name of God. The Bible also demands this of you. So let’s kindly cooperate and chant, and if you have a prejudice against chanting the name Kṛṣṇa, then chant “Christos” or “Kṛṣṭa” – there is no difference. Śrī Caitanya said: nāmnām akāri bahudhā nija-sarva-śaktiḥ. “God has millions and millions of names, and because there is no difference between God’s name and Himself, each one of these names has the same potency as God.” Therefore, even if you accept designations like “Hindu,” “Christian,” or “Muhammadan,” if you simply chant the name of God found in your own scriptures, you will attain the spiritual platform. Human life is meant for self-realization – to learn how to love God. That is the actual duty of man. Whether you discharge this duty as a Hindu, a Christian, or a Muhammadan, it doesn’t matter – but discharge it!
Father Emmanuel: I agree.
Śrīla Prabhupāda [pointing to a string of 108 meditation beads]: We always have these beads, just as you have your rosary. You are chanting, but why don’t the other Christians also chant? Why should they miss this opportunity as human beings? Cats and dogs cannot chant, but we can, because we have a human tongue. If we chant the holy names of God, we cannot lose anything; on the contrary, we gain greatly. My disciples practice chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa constantly. They could also go to the cinema or do so many other things, but they have given everything up. They eat neither fish nor meat nor eggs, they don’t take intoxicants, they don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they don’t partake in gambling, they don’t speculate, and they don’t maintain illicit sexual connections. But they do chant the holy name of God. If you would like to cooperate with us, then go to the churches and chant, “Christ,” “Kṛṣṭa,” or “Kṛṣṇa.” What could be the objection?
Father Emmanuel: There is none. For my part, I would be glad to join you.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: No, we are speaking with you as a representative of the Christian Church. Instead of keeping the churches closed, why not give them to us? We would chant the holy name of God there twenty-four hours a day. In many places we have bought churches that were practically closed because no one was going there. In London I saw hundreds of churches that were closed or used for mundane purposes. We bought one such church in Los Angeles. It was sold because no one came there, but if you visit this same church today, you will see thousands of people. Any intelligent person can understand what God is in five minutes; it doesn’t require five hours.
Father Emmanuel: I understand.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: But the people do not. Their disease is that they don’t want to understand.
Visitor: I think understanding God is not a question of intelligence, but a question of humility.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Humility means intelligence. The humble and meek own the kingdom of God. This is stated in the Bible, is it not? But the philosophy of the rascals is that everyone is God, and today this idea has become popular. Therefore no one is humble and meek. If everyone thinks that he is God, why should he be humble and meek? Therefore I teach my disciples how to become humble and meek. They always offer their respectful obeisances in the temple and to the spiritual master, and in this way they make advancement. The qualities of humbleness and meekness lead very quickly to spiritual realization. In the Vedic scriptures it is said, “To those who have firm faith in God and the spiritual master, who is His representative, the meaning of the Vedic scriptures is revealed.”
Father Emmanuel: But shouldn’t this humility be offered to everyone else, also?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, but there are two kinds of respect: special and ordinary. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya taught that we shouldn’t expect honor for ourselves, but should always respect everyone else, even if he is disrespectful to us. But special respect should be given to God and His pure devotee.
Father Emmanuel: Yes, I agree.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: I think the Christian priests should cooperate with the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. They should chant the name Christ or Christos and should stop condoning the slaughter of animals. This program follows the teachings of the Bible; it is not my philosophy. Please act accordingly and you will see how the world situation will change.
Father Emmanuel: I thank you very much.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Christ, Christians, and Kṛṣṇa
“A Vaiṣṇava [a pure devotee of the Lord] is unhappy to see the suffering of others. Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified – to free others from their suffering. But his followers are so unfaithful that they have decided, ‘Let Christ suffer for us, and we’ll go on committing sin.’ They love Christ so much that they think, ‘My dear Christ, we are very weak. We cannot give up our sinful activities. So you please suffer for us.’”
The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam states that any bona fide preacher of God consciousness must have the qualities of titikṣā (tolerance) and karuṇā (compassion). In the character of Lord Jesus Christ we find both these qualities. He was so tolerant that even while he was being crucified, he didn’t condemn anyone. And he was so compassionate that he prayed to God to forgive the very persons who were trying to kill him. (Of course, they could not actually kill him. But they were thinking that he could be killed, so they were committing a great offense.) As Christ was being crucified he prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they are doing.”
A preacher of God consciousness is a friend to all living beings. Lord Jesus Christ exemplified this by teaching, “Thou shalt not kill.” But the Christians like to misinterpret this instruction. They think the animals have no soul, and therefore they think they can freely kill billions of innocent animals in the slaughterhouses. So although there are many persons who profess to be Christians, it would be very difficult to find one who strictly follows the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ.
A Vaiṣṇava is unhappy to see the suffering of others. Therefore, Lord Jesus Christ agreed to be crucified – to free others from their suffering. But his followers are so unfaithful that they have decided, “Let Christ suffer for us, and we’ll go on committing sin.” They love Christ so much that they think, “My dear Christ, we are very weak. We cannot give up our sinful activities. So you please suffer for us.”
Jesus Christ taught, “Thou shalt not kill.” But his followers have now decided, “Let us kill anyway,” and they open big, modern, scientific slaughterhouses. “If there is any sin, Christ will suffer for us.” This is a most abominable conclusion.
Christ can take the sufferings for the previous sins of his devotees. But first they have to be sane: “Why should I put Jesus Christ into suffering for my sins? Let me stop my sinful activities.”
Suppose a man – the favorite son of his father – commits a murder. And suppose he thinks, “If there is any punishment coming, my father can suffer for me.” Will the law allow it? When the murderer is arrested and says, “No, no. You can release me and arrest my father; I am his pet son,” will the police officials comply with that fool’s request? He committed the murder, but he thinks his father should suffer the punishment! Is that a sane proposal? “No. You have committed the murder; you must be hanged.” Similarly, when you commit sinful activities, you must suffer – not Jesus Christ. This is God’s law.
Jesus Christ was such a great personality – the son of God, the representative of God. He had no fault. Still, he was crucified. He wanted to deliver God consciousness, but in return they crucified him – they were so thankless. They could not appreciate his preaching. But we appreciate him and give him all honor as the representative of God.
Of course, the message that Christ preached was just according to his particular time, place, and country, and just suited for a particular group of people. But certainly he is the representative of God. Therefore we adore Lord Jesus Christ and offer our obeisances to him.
Once, in Melbourne, a group of Christian ministers came to visit me. They asked, “What is your idea of Jesus Christ?” I told them, “He is our guru. He is preaching God consciousness, so he is our spiritual master.” The ministers very much appreciated that.
Actually, anyone who is preaching God’s glories must be accepted as a guru. Jesus Christ is one such great personality. We should not think of him as an ordinary human being. The scriptures say that anyone who considers the spiritual master to be an ordinary man has a hellish mentality. If Jesus Christ were an ordinary man, then he could not have delivered God consciousness.